Rio de Janeiro

The southeast region of Brazil is home to three of the country’s largest and most important cities: São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Rio de Janeiro. Poor people from Brazil’s rural areas are attracted to the large cities and the promise of jobs and opportunities for a better life. Sadly, they typically settle in the sprawling urban slums, called favelas, where poverty and hopelessness reign.

Brazil Southeastern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Children in southeastern Brazil gather outside their local child development center. The center serves as an oasis of hope – a place to escape the harsh realities of daily life. Brazil Children Outside Center Fence
  • Conditions in the slums of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are almost unlivable. These places lack even basic sanitation, which creates constant disease risk. Brazil Women in Rainy Alley
  • This home is typical of houses in the poverty-stricken regions of southeastern Brazil. Families are forced to make do with whatever building materials and furnishings they can find. Brazil Family on Couch
  • The loving attention these children receive at Compassion’s child development center helps them see beyond the misery of their daily life. Brazil Girls with Town in Background
  • The meals these children receive from their local child development center are the only real nutrition many of them get. These meals are made possible by the generosity of Compassion’s sponsors. Brazil Children Eating
  • Compassion’s child development centers give children in need in southeastern Brazil many reasons to smile. Brazil Smiling Boy with Crayons

Overview: Southeastern Brazil

The largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil is slightly smaller in land mass than the United States. Brazil is the continent’s leading economic power. However, the country struggles with poverty, which affects 26 percent of the population.

Brazil’s southeastern region comprises four states and 77.8 million people, 42 percent of the country’s total population. Among these states, Compassion ministers in three: São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro.

In the southeast, the primary language is Portuguese. About 70 percent of the people practice Catholicism, and 17 percent are evangelical Christians. The population represents a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, including descent from European, African, Asian and indigenous groups.

The climate of the southeast is tropical, averaging 71 degrees year-round. Here, flooding and landslides are common crises. In April 2010, a landslide affecting a hillside slum in Rio de Janeiro killed 150 people. Several Compassion-assisted child development centers suspended activities to serve as temporary shelters for families who lost their homes.


Culture Corner


Try this simple recipe for a bean soup, enjoyed throughout Brazil. It can be made with almost any type of dried bean, but in the southeast, the black bean is most commonly used.


  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 thick slice bacon
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro and green onion to garnish


Soak beans overnight in cold water.

Drain beans, and put them with water, bay leaves and bacon in saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender. Remove bacon from bean mixture. Slice thinly.

Heat olive oil in frying pan, add bacon and fry over medium heat.

Add onion and garlic.

Sauté until softened.

Add all to the bean mixture.

Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 minutes.

Blend mixture in blender until smooth. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro and green onions.


Life in the Southeastern Region of Brazil

The southeastern region of Brazil includes the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. The region is home to some Brazil’s most iconic images, including the festival of Carnival and the 130-foot tall Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro.

Yet beneath the beauty and spectacle lies a dark underbelly. Luxurious buildings share space with squalid slums. Families trying to survive on less than a dollar a day make their homes in rickety shacks built from discarded materials. Unemployment, drug abuse and alcoholism run rampant throughout the region. Most children in these poverty-stricken areas are neglected. Many are physically and sexually abused. Southeastern Brazil is a place desperately in need of God’s light.

Children at Home

The homes in Brazil’s southeastern favelas are crude, fragile constructions of brick, plywood and whatever other scrap materials can be found on the streets. They are crowded together on hillsides, along streams, and in other precarious locations. Homes are sparsely furnished, typically with only a few chairs and a stove. Family members sleep in hammocks, which can be put away during the day to allow more room to move about.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Brazil

The southeast is home to three of the country’s largest and most important cities: São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Rio de Janeiro. These cities have pockets of great wealth and boast many thriving industries.

For that reason, poor people from Brazil’s northern rural areas are attracted to the southeast’s cities and the promise of jobs and opportunities for a better life. Sadly, they typically settle in the sprawling urban slums, called favelas, where poverty and hopelessness reign. In fact, one-third of the population in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro live in slums, in conditions of great suffering and need.

Unemployment levels among unskilled immigrants are high in the southeastern cities. Typically, they are able to find work only as low-paid temporary laborers or domestic servants. Drug trafficking and violent crime are also common in the favelas.

Another problem is a consequence of poorly built slum homes, illegally constructed and haphazardly situated on hillsides and other precarious locations. During the rainy season, the slums of São Paulo are frequently flooded, and many families lose their homes. Likewise, in Rio de Janeiro, frequent landslides destroy homes and take lives in the hillside slums.

Local Needs and Challenges

Life is extremely difficult for children in the slums of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Home for many of their families is nothing more than a shack made from discarded materials. Southeastern Brazil’s staggering unemployment rates make it next to impossible for impoverished parents to support their families. In despair, many parents turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Others subject their children to physical and sexual abuse. These children are in desperate need of help.


Schools and Education Education in Brazil

In Brazil, kindergarten is followed by eight years of primary school and three or four years of secondary school. The best schools are private ones that charge between $300 and $700 per month in tuition — a price that is way out of range for most families. Poor students attend public schools, where education quality is generally poor. Rarely do children graduating from public schools pass the rigorous “vestibular” test, required for entrance to college.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Compassion ministers to children in Brazil’s southeastern region through many child development centers. These centers, hosted by local churches, are havens of love and learning for registered children. Here, they receive nutritious meals, medical assistance, hygiene training, and tutoring to attain standard academic milestones. They are also encouraged to develop their talents and abilities. Most important, children learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

The local churches of southeastern Brazil serve as trusted, well-established partners in ministry. These churches provide Compassion with the physical space necessary for our child development centers..

In turn, thanks to the generosity of our donors, Compassion is able to provide local churches with the resources they need to take care of the youngest and most vulnerable members of their community. We are able to provide healthful meals for children who do not get a lot of nutrition otherwise. We support and encourage their education in ways many parents are not able to. We are able to help kids rise above the poverty and despair of their community.

How Compassion Works in Brazil Compassion in Brazil

Compassion’s work in Brazil began in 1975. The ministry started small, but has grown tremendously, thanks to the generosity of Compassion’s donors. Today more than 37,300 children are registered in 188 child development centers throughout the country. The centers are staffed with caring workers who are trained to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the children. These centers offer hope where little existed before.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator is first and foremost an advocate for children in need. The facilitator helps bridge the gap between Compassion and local churches, but his or her focus is on the children who are served by our joint ministry. The facilitator works to combine Compassion’s resources with those of the local churches to create child development centers that will make a difference in the lives of southeastern Brazil’s most vulnerable population.

The facilitator oversees the creation of child development centers within local churches and the training of their workers. The facilitator helps tweak Compassion’s specially designed curriculum to address the specific needs of each community. The facilitator ensures that children’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs are being met.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in unsanitary city slums in the southeast.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray for children’s protection from dengue fever, which can become epidemic during the rainy season.
  • Pray that children and youths will avoid the temptation to take illegal drugs.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.